To be part of the current Dublin football panel must surely be something every budding footballer in the county dreams of every night. But how does this success keep breathing? Back to back All Ireland Champions, winning four of the last six. Where does it end? How long can something of this magnitude continue?
Surely, at some point of the last number of years, you would expect a shift in attitude. A lot have asked where the motivation to continue comes from.
But this is indeed and exceptional bunch of players that Jim Gavin has brought together over the years. And knowing that is less of a comfort to knowing that nothing is taken for granted.
In 2012, when Joe McQuillan blew the final whistle in the All Ireland Semi Final, all thoughts of the journey from the previous year’s All Ireland success had been washed away as Mayo knocked the reigning champs out.
In 2014, it was Jim McGuinness and Donegal who were advancing to the final and once again Dublin’s hopes had unexpectedly been dashed.
Since then however, Dublin have been on a phenomenal run, but no one can predict where, or indeed when it will come to an end. And there in lies the drive to continue.
Philly McMahon is currently basking in more than just Dublin’s success. A very successful entrepreneur, Philly runs three BeDo7 Fitness Clubs in the county and a healthy eating delivery service called FitFood Ireland.
Back in his boots last week, McMahon helped Ballymun Kickhams overcome St. Brigids in Round 2 of this year’s Senior Football Club Championship, setting up a date with Raheny next Thursday night in the Quarter Finals.
The Ballymun veteran has witnessed the changes and the evolution of Dublin’s game and isn’t in any hurry to loosen the stranglehold of success they currently have.
“I think we’ve much more smarter footballers”, Philly told the 42.ie, “and are able to adapt to the pitch a bit better. We don’t have to wait for management to make a decision for us”.
This marries perfectly to comments boss Jim Gavin has made in the past that himself, and the rest of the backroom team are simply there to facilitate the talent of the panel, allowing them to express themselves.
McMahon reflects not having this in their playbook in 2014 against Donegal, which ultimately cost them the game and also brought on the new way of thinking.
“I think this year we came up against all the eventualities and we were able to deal with them.”
“I suppose we’ve had the management team drilling every possibility, all the possibilities into us, and that’s credit to them.”
Philly, along with quite a lot of the panel have managed to juggle their professional careers with their club and inter county commitments quite well. Some have taken time away to further themselves but this isn’t something McMahon is even considering.
“I missed a year of football already from being dropped. It was out of my hands, but I’ve experienced not playing a year of football. It’s probably the worst feeling in the world when you get that phone call to say ‘you are not in the plans this year’”
“It’s each to their own, I suppose. I wouldn’t for one minute think about missing a year of football.”
Dublin fans saw a different Philly McMahon this year. A more controlled animal than we’re used to. 2015 was great year but was slightly tarnished by accusations of eye-gouging. This year he’s played football as good and has made column inches for the right reasons.
To look at the list of inter county stars Philly has come up against is a feast for the senses. Donie Kingston, John Heslin, Michael Newman, Michael Murphy, Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Shea have all come face to face with Kickhams best.
And as much as he loves to score, his game has had to change as this was being singled out by oppositions.
“I’m being marked a little bit tighter going up the pitch this year.
“They had a player taking me as I came out the pitch. That fell into our hands as well because it meant that player up the pitch wasn’t marking one of our players.”
So three in a row?
“Is two in a row not enough?” he joked.
“We’re going to go out with the same mindset of trying to enjoy every minute we can, and not thinking about the long-term goal of winning the All-Ireland.”